IN THE MATTER OF TRADE UNIONS ACT CAP. 200 LAWS OF NIGERIA
In re UNION OF IFELODUN TIMBER DEALERS AND ALLIED WORKMEN (APPLICANTS)
(1964) All N.L.R. 485
Division: High Court, Lagos
Date of Judgment: 20th April, 1964
Case Number: M"32/62
Before: De Lestang C.J. of Lagos
An application to register a combination of persons calling itself the "Union of Ifelodun Timber Dealers and Allied Workmen" as a Trade Union under the Trade Unions Act was refused by the Registrar of Trade Unions on the ground that "it is a combination of traders" not registrable as a Trade Union under the Act. The membership of the association "is open to all persons engaged in business of timber selling and saw milling" including employers, employees and self-employed persons.
On appeal, the constitution of the association was examined to discover whether it is a trade union or not.
(1) Whether a combination is a Trade Union or not does not depend on its constituents but on its principal purposes which must come within the definition of trade union as provided under the Trade Unions Act.
(2) The present association does not come within the definition of trade union since it seems that the main purposes of the association insofar as they may be extracted from the published objects are the protection and expansion of the timber trade and the welfare of all persons, whether they be workmen or employers engaged in that trade.
Cases referred to:-
Hardie and Lane Limited v. Chiltern (1928) T K.B. 663.
Chamberlain's Wharf Limited v. Smith (1900) 2 Ch. 611.
Act referred to:-
Trade Unions Act, Cap. 200, section 2.
Oyenubi, for the Appellants.
Ogun, for the Registrar of Trade Unions.
De Lestang, C.J. of Lagos:-This is an appeal against the decision of the Registrar of Trade Unions refusing to register a combination of persons calling itself the Union of Ifelodun Timber Dealers and Allied Workmen as a Trade Union under the Trade Unions Act.
The Registrar refused registration on the ground that "it (the combination) is a combination of traders" and not registrable as a Trade Union under the law.
A trade union is defined in the Trade Unions Act as any combination whether temporary or permanent, the principal purposes of which are the regulation of the relations between workmen and masters, or between workmen and workmen, or between masters and masters whether such combination would or would not, if this Act had not been enacted, have been deemed to have been an unlawful combination by reason of some one or more of its purposes, being in restraint of trade.
It is evident from this definition that whether a combination is a trade union or not does not depend on its constituents but on its principal purposes which must come within the definition. As Lord Hanworth, M.R. said in Hardie and Lane Limited v. Chiltern 1928 1 K.B. 663 at 697:-
"The test of a trade union, whether under section 16 of the Act of 1876 or section 2 of the Act of 1913, is its objects, not its personnel."
Moreover in determining what are the principal purposes of a combination its constitution must be considered as a whole. Thus in Chamberlain's Wharf Limited v. Smith 1900 2 Ch. at 611, Lord Alverstone, M.R., said:-
"We are not bound by either the preliminary statements of its objectives or the rules taken separately; we must look at the two together in order to see what the real object and scope of the Association is."
There is nothing in the present case to show that the Association has any rules as yet. Its objects are, however, set out in its constitution and it is necessary to examine those objects as a whole in order to decide whether it is a trade union or not. The objects are:-
(a) To ensure sound organisation of all Timber Dealers and allied workmen scattered over various places in the Mushin District Council area.
(b) To promote and defend by all constitutional means the welfare of all members to the best of the Union's ability;
(c) To encourage in the members the essence of maintaining unanimity in selling-prices of various sizes and qualities of timbers in order to discourage possible unhealthy rivalries which are bound to be inimical to the best interest of the public and the economic interest of the members of the Union.
(d) To fight all such influences as are capable of retarding the economic progress of members and encourage the promotion of bye-laws which will make for the good of the public insofar as our trade is concerned.;
(e) To make all possible efforts to maintain cordial relationship among members of the Union and between the Union and the public.
(f) To undertake, or participate in, the publishing of journals and other literature designed to educate members on the desirability of maintaining high standard of honesty in their dealing with the public:
(g) To provide for members any or all of the following benefits and such others as the Executive Committee may decide any time the need arises: legal advice and legal defence when matters of the trade are involved; assistance in members' trade and any other form of assistance asked for by any member of the Union and approved by the Executive Committee.
I shall now examine each object in turn in order to see whether the principal purposes of the association are the regulation of the relations between workmen and masters, or between workmen and workmen, or between masters and masters so as to bring it within the definition of trade union quoted above. Before doing so, however, it is necessary to point out that the association "is open to all persons engaged in the business of timber selling and saw milling." It is accordingly open to employers as well as employees and self-employed persons in the trade in question.
Object (a) provides for forming "all timber dealers and allied workmen" in a particular district into a single body. It does not regulate anything.
Object (b) deals with the welfare of the members irrespective of whether they are workmen or employers.
Object (c) is to encourage certain courses of action on the part of members with a view to protecting their interests.
Object (d) is designed to protect the trade itself
Object (e) is to ensure cordial relationship between the members and between the association and the public.
Object (f) deals with publications.
Object (g) provides for assistance to members where matters of trade are involved.
I can see nothing in these objects which, to use the words of the definition, regulates the relations between workmen and masters or between workmen and workmen or between masters and masters. It seems to me that the main purpose of the association insofar as they may be extracted from the published objects are the protection and expansion of the timber trade and the welfare of all persons, whether they be workmen or employers engaged in that trade. The association does not, therefore, come within the definition of trade union. The appeal is accordingly dismissed with costs assessed at seven guineas.